Monday, September 7, 1998
Vol. 34, No. 36
Remarks to future Russian leaders in Moscow
William J Clinton
�� September 1, 1998
� Thank you very much. First I'd like to thank Maxim Safonov for
that fine introduction and for his very encouraging remarks. Rector
Torpoulov, Minister Primakov, to all the members of the American
delegation. We have Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of
Adviser Berger, our Ambassador, Jim Collins, and five distinguished
Members of the United States Congress here: Senator Domenici; Senator
Bingaman; Representatives Hoyer, King, and Deutsch.
�� I think their presence here should speak louder than any words I
could say that America considers our relationship with Russia to be
important. It is a relationship of friendship, of mutual
responsibility, and of commitment to the future. We are all honored
to be here today, and we thank you for your welcome.
� On this first day of school across both our countries, students
are resuming their studies, including their study of history. At
this critical, surely historic, moment, let me start with a few words
about what I believe the past can teach us as we and, especially, as
the Russian people face the challenges of the present and the future.
�� Two hundred and twenty-two years ago, we Americans declared our
freedom from the tyranny of King George of England. We set out to
govern ourselves. The road has not often-or certainly not
always-been easy. First, we fought a very long war for independence.
Then in 1814, we went to war with England again. They invaded our
Capital City and burned the President's house, the White House. Then
in 1861, we began our bloodiest war ever, a civil war, fought over
the conflicts of slavery. It almost divided our country forever, but
instead we were reunited, and we abolished slavery.
� In the 1930's, before World War II, our country sank into an
enormous depression with 25 percent of our people unemployed and more
than one-third of our people living in poverty. Well, you know the
rest. We were allies in World War II, and after World War II we were
adversaries. But it was a time of great prosperity for the American
people, even though there were tense and difficult moments in the
last 50 years.
� The larger point I want to make, as Russia goes through this time
of extreme difficulty, is that over the life of our democracy we have
had many intense, even bitter, debates about what are the proper
relations between people of different races or religions or
backgrounds, over the gap between rich and poor, over crime and
punishment, even over war and peace. We Americans have fought and
our freedom by remembering the fundamental values enshrined in our
Constitution and our Declaration of Independence, by continuing to
respect the dignity of every man, woman, and child, to tolerate those
with different ideas and beliefs than our own, to demand equality of
opportunity, to give everyone a chance to make the most of his or her
� Russia's great ally in World War II, our President, Franklin
Roosevelt, said that democracy is a never-ending seeking for better
things. For Americans, that means, in good times and bad, we seek to
widen the circle of opportunity, to deepen the meaning of our
freedom, to build a stronger national community.
� Now, what does all that got to do with Russia in 1998? Your
history is much longer than ours and so rich with accomplishment,
from military victories over Napoleon and Hitler to the literary
achievements of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pasternak, and so many
others, to great achievements in art, music, dance, medicine,
science, space flight. Yet for all your rich, long history, it was
just 7 years ago that Russia embarked on its own quest for democracy,
your own and must be guided by your own vision of Russia's democratic
� Now you are at a critical point on your journey. There are severe
economic pressures and serious hardships which I discussed in my
meetings with your leaders this morning. The stakes are enormous.
Every choice Russia makes today may have consequences for years and
years to come. Given the facts before you, I have to tell you that I
do not believe there are any painless solutions, and indeed, an
attempt to avoid difficult solutions may only prolong and worsen the
� First, let me make a couple of points. The experience of our
country over the last several years, and especially in the last 6
years, proves that the challenges of the global economy are very
great, but so are its rewards. The Russian people have met
tremendous challenges in the past. You can do it here. You can
build a prosperous future. You can build opportunity and jobs for
all the people of this land who are willing to work for them if you
stand strong and complete, not run from but complete the
transformation you began 7 years ago.
� The second point I want to make is the rest of the world has a
very large stake in your success. Today about a quarter of the
world's people are struggling with economic challenges that are
profound-the people of your country; the people in Japan, who have
had no economic growth for 5 years-it's still a very wealthy country,
but when they don't have any growth, it's harder for all other
countries that trade with them who aren't so wealthy to grow-other
countries in Asia. And now we see when there are problems in Russia
or in Japan or questions about the economy of China, you see all
across the world-the stock market in Latin America drops; you see the
last 2 days we've had big drops in the American stock market.
� What does that say? Well, among other things, it says, whether we
like it or not, we must build the future together, because, whether
we like it or not, we are going to be affected by what we do. We
will be affected by what you do; you will be affected by what we do.
We might as well do it together and make the most of it.
� Now, in terms of what has happened in America, obviously it's
down. But I have talked to our Secretary of the Treasury about this
several times since yesterday. I want to reiterate the point that I
think is important for Russia, for America, for every country: We
believe our fundamental economic policy is sound; we believe our
people are working at record rates; and we are determined to stay on
a path of fiscal discipline that brought us to where we are. I think
that wherever there are markets there will always be changes in those
markets. But we must attempt to move in the right direction.
� And that's what I want to talk to you about today: How can we move
in the right direction? When I look at all the young people here
today-and I have read about you and your background-young people from
all over Russia, seizing the possibilities of freedom to chart new
courses for yourselves and your nation, making a difference by
building businesses from modest loans and innovative ideas, by taking
technologies created for weapons and applying them to human needs, by
finding creative government solutions to complex problems, by
improving medical care and fighting disease, by publishing courageous
journalism, exposing abuses of power, producing literature and art
and scholarship, changing the way people see their own lives,
cleaner environment, reaching out to the world. In this room today,
there are young people doing all those things. That should give you
great reason to hope.
� You are at the forefront of building a modern Russia. You are a
new generation. You do represent the future of your dreams. Your
efforts today will not only ensure better lives for yourselves but
for your children and generations that follow.
� I think it is important to point out, too, that when Russia chose
freedom, it was not supposed to benefit only the young and well
educated, the rich and well connected; it was also supposed to
benefit the men and women who worked in factories and farms and
fought the wars of the Soviet era, those who survive today on
pensions and Government assistance. It was also supposed to benefit
the laborers and teachers and soldiers who work every day but wait
now for a paycheck.
� The challenge is to create a new Russia that benefits all
responsible citizens of this country. How do you get there? I do
do not believe it is by stopping the reform process in midstream,
with a few Russians doing very well but far more struggling to
provide for their families. I believe you will create the conditions
of growth if, but only if, you continue to move decisively along the
path of democratic, market-oriented, constructive revolution.
� The Russian people have made extraordinary progress in the last 7
years. You have gone to the polls to elect your leaders. Some 65 to
70 percent of you freely turn out in every election. People across
Russia are rebuilding diverse religious traditions, launching a wide
range of private organizations. Seventy p ercent of the economy now
is in private hands. Not bureaucrats but consumers determine what
goods get to stores and where people live. You have reached out to
the world with trade and investment, exchanges of every kind, and
leadership in meeting security challenges around the globe.
� Now you face a critical moment. Today's financial crisis does not
require you to abandon your march toward freedom and free markets.
Russians will define Russia's future, but there are clear lessons, I
would argue, from international experience. Here's what I think they
� First, in tough times governments need stable revenues to pay
their bills, support salaries, pensions, and health care. That
requires decisive action to ensure that everyone pays their fair
share of taxes. Otherwise, a few pay too much, many pay too little,
the government is in the hole and can never get out, and you will
never be able to have a stable economic policy. It is tempting for
everyone to avoid wanting to pay any taxes. But if everyone will pay
their fair share, the share will be modest and their incomes will be
larger over the long run because of the stability and growth it will
bring to this Russian economic system.
� Second, printing money to pay the bills and bailout the banks
does not help. It causes inflation and ultimately will make the pain
��Third, special bailouts for a privileged few come at the expense
of the whole nation. Fourth, fair, equitable treatment of creditors
today will determine their involvement in a nation tomorrow. The
people who loan money into this nation must be treated fairly if you
� These are not radical theories, they are simply facts proven by
experience. How Russia reacts to them will fundamentally affect your
future. Surviving today's crisis, however difficult that may be, is
just the beginning. To create jobs, growth, and higher income, a
nation must convince its own citizens and foreigners that they can
safely invest. Again, experience teaches what works: fair tax laws
and fair enforcement; easier transferability of land; strong
intellectual property rights to encourage innovation; independent
courts enforcing the lav consistently and upholding contract rights;
strong banks that safeguard savings; securities markets that protect
investors; social spending that promotes hope and opportunity and a
safety net for those who in any given time in an open market economy
will be dislocated; and vigilance against hidden ties between
government and business interests that are inappropriate.
� Now, this is not an American agenda. I will say it again: This is
not an American agenda. These are the imperatives of the global
marketplace, and you can see them repeated over and over and over
nation after nation.
� Increasingly, no nation, rich or poor, democratic or
authoritarian, can escape the fundamental economic imperatives of the
global market. Investors and entrepreneurs have a very wide and
growing range of choices about where they put their money. They move
in the direction of openness, fairness, and freedom. Here, Russia
has an opportunity. At the dawn of a new century there is a
remarkable convergence; increasingly, the very policies that are
needed to thrive in the new economy are also those which deepen
democratic liberty for individual citizens.
��This is a wealthy country. It is rich in resources. It is richer
still in people. It has done a remarkable job of providing quality
education to large numbers of people. You have proven over and over
and over again in ways large and small that the people of this
country have a sense of courage and spirit, an unwillingness to be
beat down and to give up. The future can be very, very bright.
� But we can't ignore the rules of the game, because if there is a
United States with the size of our economy, no country is strong
enough to control what millions and millions and millions of people
decide freely to do with their money. But every country will keep a
large share of its own citizens' money and get a lot of money from
worldwide investors if it can put in place systems that abide by the
rules of international commerce. And all Russia needs is its fair
share of this investment. You have the natural wealth. You have the
people power. You have the education. All you need is just to get
your fair share of the investment.
� Now, 21st century economic power will rest on creativity and
innovation. I believe the young people in this room think they can
be as creative or innovative as anyone in the world. It will rest on
the free flow of information. It will rest on ideas. Consider this,
those of you who are beginning your careers: America's three largest
computer and software companies are now worth more than all the
American companies in our steel, automotive, aerospace, chemical, and
plastics industries combined-combined-our three biggest computer
monopoly on ideas. No people will ever control all the creative
juices that flow in the human spirit more or less evenly across the
world. You will do very well if you just get your fair share of
investment. To get your fair share of investment, you have to play
by the rules that everyone else has to play by. That's what this
whole crisis is about. No one could ever have expected your country
to be able to make this transition without pain. You've only been at
this 7 years.
� Look at any European country that has had an open market society
for decades and decades and decades. They have hundreds, indeed
thousands, of little organizations, they have major national
institutions that all tend to reinforce these rules that I talked
about earlier. Don't be discouraged, but don't be deterred. Just
keep working until you get it in place. Once you get it in place,
Russia will take off like a rocket, because you have both natural
resources and people resources.
� Now, I think it's important to point out, however, that economic
strength-let's go back to the rules-it depends on the rule of law.
foreign country, they want to know what the rules are. What are the
terms on which my money is being invested? How will my investment be
protected? If I lose money, I want to know it's because I made a bad
decision, not because the law didn't protect my money. It is very
important. Investors, therefore, seek honest government, fair
systems-fair for corporations and consumers, where there are strong
checks on corruption and abuse of authority and openness in what the
rules are on how investment capital is handled.
� Economic strength depends on equality of opportunity. There must
be strong schools and good health care, and everyone must have a
chance to share in the nation's bounty. And economic power must lie
with people who vote their consciences, use new technologies to
spread ideas, start organizations to work for change, and build
enterprises of all kinds.
� Now, some seek to exploit this power shift that's going on in the
world to take advantage of their fellow citizens. When this nation
went from the old Communist command and control system to an open
free system, without all the intermediate institutions and private
And into those vacuums, some moved with an intent to exploit their
fellow citizens to enrich themselves without regard to fairness or
safety or the future. The challenges for any citizenthis is not
Russia specific-this would have happened and has happened in every
single country that has had to make this transition. There's nothing
inherently negative about this development. It is as predictable as
the Sun coming up in the morning. Every country has had to face
this. But you must overcome it.
� You must have a state that is strong enough to control abuses:
violence, theft, fraud, bribery, monopolism. But it must not be so
strong that it can limit the legitimate rights and dreams and
creativity of the people. That is the tension of creating the right
kind of democratic market society.
� The bottom line is that the American people very much want Russia
to succeed. We value your friendship. We honor your struggle. We
want to offer support as long as you take the steps needed for
stability and progress. We will benefit greatly if you strengthen
your democracy and increase your prosperity.
dangerous buildup of nuclear weapons. We're 2 years ahead of
schedule in cutting nuclear arsenals under START I. START II, which
still awaits ratification in the Duma, will reduce our nuclear forces
by two-thirds from cold-war levels. President Yeltsin and I already
have agreed on a framework for START III to cut our nuclear arsenals
� For you young people, at a time when India and Pakistan have
started testing nuclear weapons, America and Russia must resume the
direction the world should take away from nuclear weapons, not toward
them. This is a very important thing.
� We are working to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
We signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with 147 other
countries. We're working to contain the arms race between India and
Pakistan, to strengthen controls on transfers of weapons
technologies, to combat terrorism everywhere.
� Our bonds are growing stronger, and as they do we will move closer
reached agreement for greater cooperation between NATO and Russia.
And our soldiers serve side by side, making peace possible in Bosnia.
We don't always agree, and our interests aren't always identical.
But we work together more often than n ot, and the world is a better
place as a result. Building peace is our paramount responsibility,
but there is more we must do together. One thing we need to do more
together is prove that you can grow the economy without destroying
� A great man looking at the condition of the environment charged
that humanity was a destroyer. He wrote, "Forests keep disappearing.
Rivers dry up. Wildlife has become extinct. The climate is ruined.
The land grows poorer and uglier every day." Chekhov wrote those
words 100 years ago. Just imagine his reaction to the present
environmental conditions, with toxic pollution ruining our air and
water, and global warming threatening to aggravate flooding and
drought and disease.
� Together, we can create cleaner technologies to grow our economies
without destroying the world's environment and imperiling future
for making weapons but for building better communications, curing
disease, combating hunger, exploring the heavens. Together, we can
reconcile societies of different people with different religions and
races and viewpoints, and stand against the wars of ethnic,
religious, and racial hatred that have dominated recent history.
� If we stand together and if we do the right things, we can build
that kind of world. If the people of Russia stand for economic
reform that benefits all the people of this country, America will
stand with you. As the people of Russia work for education and
scientific discovery, as they stand against corruption and for honest
government, against the criminals and terrorists and for the safety
of ordinary citizens, against aggression and for peace, America will
proudly stand with you. It is the right thing to do, but it is also
very much in the interest of the American people to do so.
� I was amazed there were some doubters back in America who said
perhaps I shouldn't come here because these are uncertain times
politically and economically. And there are questions being raised
in the American press about the commitment of Russia to the course of
airplane and take a trip in good times and that friends come to visit
each other in challenging and difficult times.
� I come here as a friend, because I believe in the future of
Russia. I come here also because I believe someone has to tell the
truth to the people, so that you're not skeptical when your political
leaders tell you things that are hard to hear. There is no way out
of playing by the rules of the international economy if you wish to
be a part of it. We cannot abandon the rules of the international
economy. No one can.
� There is a way to preserve the social safety net and the social
contract and to help the people who are too weak to succeed. There
is a way to do that. And there are people who will help to do that.
But it has to be done. So I come here as a friend. I come here
because I know that the future of our children and the future of
Russia's young people are going to be entwined, and I want it to be a
good future. And I believe it can be.
� Recently, a woman from PetrozavodskI hone I pronounced that right.
II and rebuilt from the rubble. Listen to this. She said, "We
survived the ruins, the devastation, the hunger, and the cold. It is
not possible that our people can do this again? If people raise
themselves, they can move mountains. Toward what end? Pushkin once
said that so long as we burn with freedom, we can fulfill the noble
urges of our souls."
� In all this dry and sometimes dour talk about economics and
finance, never forget that, whatever your human endeavor, the
ultimate purpose of it is to fulfill the noble urges of your soul.
That is the ultimate victory the Russian people will reap if you will
see this process through to the end. I hope you will do that, and I
hope we will be able to be your partners every step of the way.
� Thank you very much.
� NOTE: The President spoke at 4:50 p.m. in the auditorium at Moscow
State University. In his remarks, he referred to Maxim Safonov,
student, Moscow State University; and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Yevgeniy Primakov and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia. A portion